Reducing the amount of time spent sat or lying down may be more beneficial for people at high risk of type 2 diabetes than regular exercise, according to research by academics at Leicester University.
The findings, published in the journal Diabetologia, suggest that cutting sedentary behaviour by 90 minutes per day could be more effective than current official advice recommending at least 150 minutes a week of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity.
For their study, the researchers analysed data from two studies into diabetes involving almost 900 adult patients at high risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
The team examined the extent to which sedentary time (time spend sat down), breaks in sedentary time, moderate-to-vigorous exercise and the total amount of physical activity were independently linked with cardiovascular and metabolic health among the patients.
They found that the impact of sitting down for long periods without breaks had a bigger effect on blood glucose levels, blood fats, LDL (‘bad’) cholesterol and other biochemical markers for diabetes than whether or not individuals exercised regularly or intensively.
Joseph Henso, from Leicester University’s Diabetes Research Unit, said: “The longer the time you spend sitting, the higher the amount of sugars and fats that accumulate in your bloodstream regardless of the time you spend exercising.”
The authors of the study concluded that regular physical activity, which “forms the cornerstone of diabetes prevention programmes”, may be more effective if people are encouraged to sit less and stand up more often, especially at work.
“This approach requires a paradigm shift, so that individuals at high risk of developing type 2 diabetes think about the balance of sedentary behaviour and physical activity throughout the day,” Henson added.
“Anything that breaks your sitting time would be beneficial because the more you move the better it is for you. But people should still exercise – standing should not be seen as a substitute for physical activity.”

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